Journey to Social Justice

By Sister Sallie Latkovich

As a young child, I loved to visit my Grandmother, whom we called Nanna. The poor and the homeless of the time knew that they could come to her back door to receive something to eat. She often invited them in, to eat at her table and to share some conversation. I loved meeting these people, and I loved Nanna’s kindness to them. This was how my heart for justice came to be. I define justice as “being in right relationship” with all people.


As a high school student, I would board the bus at my high school every other Saturday to go to the Hough area of Cleveland (where race riots erupted in the early 60’s) to tutor young students in reading and in math. Over the course of a year, relationships grew; and I became incredibly aware of the injustices faced by the people who lived in Hough.


As Director of the Biblical Study and Travel Program at Catholic Theological Union, I have accompanied our students over the last eight years for an extended time of study in Israel. Our “home” for eight weeks has been with the Comboni Sisters in Bethany, which is in East Jerusalem. The security wall actually borders the sisters property.

On a global scale, my consciousness was raised about the subtle and not-so-subtle oppression of the Palestinians. Friends I have come to know in Bethlehem have had large parcels of vineyard property, which had been in their family for several generations, taken from them and they have no recourse. Students at Bethlehem University, both Christians and Muslims, who live outside of the West Bank have great difficulty passing through check points to get to classes. Taxes on the Palestinian population are very high, with very poor services provided in return.


These experiences among so many others have formed my heart for justice. The Prophets of the Old Testament, which was my main area of graduate study, always called for justice within the monarchy of Ancient Israel. Because of this, it was natural for me to both study and to embrace the Best Kept Secret in the Church: Catholic Social Teaching. It also led me to choose religious life with the Congregation of St. Joseph, where our core value is unifying love.


Catholic Social Teaching is a collection of documents written by Popes, Bishops’ Conferences, and Individual Bishops in response to issues of justice. From 1891 to the present, the hierarchy of the Church have called for justice as they have written documents on behalf of peace in the world, against the death penalty, welcome and care for immigrants, and others.  All of these issues of Catholic Social Teaching are rooted in the Gospel of Jesus.


These documents are little known; indeed, “The Best Kept Secret” in our Church. Why is this so?

–they are often written in “church-speak” and are lengthy; because of this, they are not user-friendly to the general population.

–they are prophetic in that they speak truth to power; truths that “power people” are often unwelcome to and even resisted.

–they are often unfamiliar to many clergy who then are unable to incorporate Catholic Social Teaching into their weekly homilies.


For the Congregation of St. Joseph, our own documents call us to be “the community of the great love of God!” always in service to “the dear neighbor,” without distinction. These phrases speak of justice: being in right relationship with God and with others in our world, both near and far. I find my own heart for justice has a home in the Congregation of St. Joseph, for we embrace Catholic Social Teaching and make every effort to act on its directives. May we all speak for justice in our world, as Catholic Social Teaching calls of us.

About the Author

sallie-sized-for-useSister Sallie Latkovich directs the Bible Study and Travel Program as well as the  Summer Institute at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. As a member of the Bible Deptartment, she teaches Biblical Foundations of Spirituality and The Bible For Ministry. She enjoys music, plays, and movies; and loves visiting family and friends.

18 thoughts on “Journey to Social Justice

  1. judithcsj says:

    And may we always be attentive to and stand in support of every kind of neighbor, including planet Earth! Beautiful! Thanks for this, Sallie!


  2. Colleen Conway Cooney says:

    Timeless and timely message Sallie! I feel so blessed to be a CSJ neighbor and to have visited the Holy Land with you. Peace to you and your ministry.


  3. Lorraine LeBlanc says:

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom and experiences. I am particularly heartened to hear your first-hand reporting of the difficulties faced by Palestinians. I am on the board of a D.C. based organization called Interfaith Peace Builders. Every year we take hundreds of people to witness the injustices endured by Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, East Jerusalem and Israel. I hope some day you will join us.


    • Dear Lorraine, I especially appreciate your comment. And, I applaud the work you do. Our media certainly represents the Israeli side of things, to the neglect of our Palestinian brothers and sisters who suffer so much. Thanks again.


  4. Sallie I love “being in right relationship as S. Justice definition. A synonym of course is “solidiarity” which is my heart-word of choice. Laudato Si is another officia churchl “social” justice work and not dull by any means. Social justice because that’s the string on which the necklace of the whole is strung…… Different subject: wouldn’t be fun to develop a book length kind of “festschrift” on how several (25+/-) of Associate and vowed CSJ’s came to living social justice & what it means to each of them/us individually? What a piece of artwork that’d be!!!! Love, JOan K


  5. Maria Hill says:

    So powerful that the seed of justice was planted within you at such an early age! Thanks for sharing your story. I pray for justice for the Palestinian people, and oh, so many others.


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